This post is a part of the Common English Bible Lenten Blog Tour. Throughout the season of Lent bloggers from all around the world have been reflecting on various passages of scripture from the Common English Bible. This is my contribution to the project.

Ephesians 5:8-14 CEB

8 You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. 9 Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth. 10 Therefore test everything to see what’s pleasing to the Lord, 11 and don’t participate in the unfruitful actions of darkness. Instead you should reveal the truth about them. 12 It’s embarrassing to even talk about what certain persons do in secret. 13 But everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light. 14 Everything that is revealed by the light is light. Therefore it says, Wake up, sleeper! Get up from the dead and Christ will shine on you.

A word about the season of Lent

The word lent was originally a Saxon word meaning length and it was used to describe the season we now commonly call ‘Spring’. In Spring the days begin to grow longer allowing for more work and play and light overcomes darkness. Here in Australia the liturgical season’s original meaning loses its significance a little because we are entering the season of autumn. The days are growing shorter and darkness is overcoming light. The mornings are beginning to grow darker and colder. Winter is only just around the corner…

You were once in darkness…

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul is trying to hold together a struggling community of Gentile Christians who are being made to feel “less than” because they are not Jewish. He has called upon them to forget about who they are as Gentiles and not worry that they are not Jewish and to accept who they “in Christ” and the begin living like it!

But everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light…

When we respond to God’s faithfulness in Christ, as the Ephesian Christians had done, we enter into the community of God’s people. We step out of darkness and into the light. We leave our old ‘Gentile’ life behind. Things in our life that were previously unseen, unrecognised and unnoticed are all of a sudden brought into a space in which they are recognised. The way we lived before knowing Christ is brought into judgement against the love of God in Christ. The light of God’s love exposes the fruitless deeds of darkness (as Paul would say). In my own experience, coming from a non-Christian background, this is a good thing, although it does make for some hard and uncomfortable learning curves!

The light and dark metaphor employed by Paul reveals his uncompromising view of Christian ethics. One might say that the issues at hand are ‘black & white’.  This does not, in my opinion, mean the ethical issues at hand are black and white, rather the need to live in a manner which “produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth. 10 Therefore test everything to see what’s pleasing to the Lord” [CEB] is. As NT Scholar Ben Witherington argues, “The Christian life is not all a matter of following preset rules. It also involves using good Christian judgment and character to decide what is and is not “light.” The works of darkness do not bear good fruit. They are sterile.[1]” How we live is vitally important I believe Paul is concerned with two things:

  1. When our actions or way of life get in the way of Christ (the light of the world) they cast a shadow over the world. Our actions block the light of God’s love. Those who should be receiving Christ’s love do not, and we are to blame.
  2. As we ‘live in the light’ we reflect the light of God’s love into the world. We share the love of God for all humanity into a darkened world. Those who could not see because of darkness are illuminated!

What of Light and Darkness?

The season of lent helps us prepare for the season of Resurrection life. Drawing on the imagery of springtime light helps us to weed out (also another fun part of springtime) those things in our life which darken our soul and the world in which we live. The parts of our old life that have subtly made their way back into our habitual life are brought to our attention so that we can deal with them. The good news is the season of lent is a time to step back into the light of God’s love; a season in which we free ourselves of our old life through the grace of God.

May the light of God’s love shine on you this Lenten season…

[1] Ben Witherington III, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians : A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007), 309.